Hooker was the first Anglican theologian following the English reformation to
offer an account or apology for the English Church. In his work, The Laws of
Ecclesiastical Polity, he argued against the Puritans and Roman Catholics.
He claimed that Puritans claimed too much in proposing that scripture provided
the only source of knowledge, including knowledge about all matters of church
order and discipline. In turn, he claimed that the Roman Catholic Church
claimed too much in believing that the Church had infallible understanding of
faith (as given by the Pope), much less the order and discipline of the church.
Instead, Hooker maintain, scripture contains all things necessary to salvation.
We know this as we come into relationship with God through scripture and
worship. In other words, scripture speaks to us the truths of faith as we have
come to experience those truths in our lives. There is a mutual, inward hold
that scripture makes upon us and we upon it. The Christian life is then lived
out in light of this faith, shaped by the order of Church and society as that
reflects the continuing, developing understanding of both.
himself does not use the phrase scripture, tradition, and reason. In fact, it
is not clear who first used the phrase itself. They have, though, come to
designate the sources that mediate Christian faith, inform the understanding of
that faith, and shape the order and discipline of the church. They also have
come to designate a method in which the understanding of Christian (as distinct
from what is necessary to salvation) is understood to always be informed and
shaped by these three sources.
it should be added, that reason for Richard Hooker and the early Anglican
tradition is misunderstood when understood as theoretical reasoning. Reason was
understood in a classical sense, drawing from Plato and Aristotle, as a
participatory knowledge. To know something was to experience it, to share or
participate in something. Hence, scripture and reason inform each other. Again,
there is a mutual, inward hold that scripture makes upon us and we upon it. As
such, reason may be best understood as a practical wisdom. It is in this sense
that scripture, tradition, and reason inform each other.